As the country enters its second post-9/11 decade, I asked renowned human rights crusader Chip Pitts about what civil liberties/human rights we've collectively lost in the so-called "war on terror" as what was previously legal has now become criminal.
Here's what he said:
"Virtually all of our most fundamental rights and liberties have been affected for the worse, with little or no awareness among the populace at large. The ignorance is no accident, but the product of conscious mendacity, manipulation and complicity among the leading political parties, all branches of government, defense contractors and the entrenched military-industrial-surveillance complex, and mainstream media -- all of which (with occasional notable exceptions) are tragically pulled by various perverse incentives in the direction of trying to out-do each other in pandering to the basest fears and instincts of the American Body Politic".
He added: "A huge number of legal violations have occurred, ranging from the momentous (illegal war) to the mundane (failure to fully notify the appropriate committees of Congress about the illegal warrantless surveillance as required under the National Security Act), but I'll limit myself to highlighting the most significant to the rights of the American public."
How has the "War on Terror' impacted the Rule of Law?
"The first category of infringements I would place under the general rubric of undermining the Rule of Law. Although all the regressions could be put in this category, some strike more than others at the very concept itself. If the Rule of Law means anything, it means that everyone is subject to the same rules of general application and that those rules are fairly applied: a "government of laws, and not of men" as founding father and American President John Adams famously put it.
"Yet we now have a much more arbitrary system of justice, in which people can be deemed second-class citizens and have their assets seized, have their travel and other rights burdened, and be stigmatized, imprisoned, or even killed merely by essentially unreviewable executive fiat."
That's the net effect of new approaches including the following, all of which impose serious burdens without the traditional checks and balances and independent reviews previously enshrined in law:
- Asset Seizure section 106 of the Patriot Act, which has led for example to the closure on legally dubious grounds of nearly all of the major Muslim charities in the United States, among other seizures occurring merely upon executive branch "designation",